By Leah Gage, Kiva Fellow in Togo

All throughout Togo, women use a traditional cloth called a pagne. Pagnes are beautiful, they come in every color and print you can imagine. They’re extremely useful as make-shift blankets, clothing, bags, towels… Yesterday while buying something a woman unwrapped her pagne skirt partway because that’s how she wrapped up her spare change. But perhaps most important for a young working mother is the use of a pagne to wrap her baby to her back.

Why would a young mother wrap her baby to her back?!

Because she can’t afford childcare.

When mom and dad are struggling to put food on the table, or maybe saving for baby’s future school fees, spending money on day care is out of the question (not to mention culturally unacceptable). While she’s out working, mom can keep her baby with her without getting in the way. Whenever the baby needs anything, mom’s right there to take care. When her baby’s hungry, she can feed her. When her baby’s tired, the baby can sleep, nestled closely to her mother’s back.

To keep her hands free.

Holding the baby just won’t do. Mom has to make food or handle merchandise or exchange money… The baby’s gotta be wrapped around back conveniently out of the way.

To keep baby active, out in the open, and absorbing mom’s entrepreneurial spirit…!

Ok, this one’s a long shot. Most babies tied to mom’s back in Togo are under the age of 2. That said, there’s no question that it’s better to keep a baby active than to leave them at home in the crib all day. The baby will absorb words and vocabulary and gain preparation at a very early age for the highly likely prospect that she’ll be helping mom with the business later as she gets older.

To keep mom working!

Without this little invention, mom wouldn’t be able to work. Maybe dad can’t find a job… maybe dad’s long gone… maybe dad has a job but won’t share his income with mom… these are all common scenarios for the young working Togolese mom, and they’re all reasons to keep her earning income. More generally, many studies suggest that women are more likely to invest their profits in their children’s education than men. Women earning income, especially moms, keeps money invested in renewable, generational development. And thanks in part to the baby wrap – and, of course, microlending – she can keep doing just that!

There are lots of moms from Togo whose loans will be fundraising on Kiva in the next few days. Click here to make a loan to a mom in Togo!


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